Connecting World-Class CEO Talent to Leading Financial Sponsors
CEO Discovery is a Professional Relationship Platform SM that enables Executives and Financial Sponsors to find, connect with and build relationships with each other. Executives include senior operating professionals such as chief executive officers (CEOs), presidents, chief operating officers (COOs), division heads and other business leaders. Financial Sponsors include private equity firms, growth investors, venture capital firms, family offices and other organizations that invest in privately held businesses.
Our online platform removes gatekeepers and fosters direct communication between Executives and Financial Sponsors so that long-term business relationships can be built and sustained over time. The platform is intuitive and easy to use. The more you use it, the more powerful it becomes as a networking tool.
Executives use CEO Discovery to connect with Financial Sponsors who invest in sectors that match their background, areas of expertise and career objectives.
- Working with Financial Sponsors means having a very active ownership group that serves as a collaborative partner in growing a business.
- Compensation is performance-based and typically includes equity and/or options. Upon the successful sale of a business, all-in remuneration can be significantly higher than for other private sector opportunities.
- While helpful, having been a CEO or having worked in private equity previously is not required to join the platform or to work with Financial Sponsors.
Suggested experience for senior operating executives:
- At least 5 to 10 years of experience in an industry sector
- Current or previous title of CEO, president, COO, division head or functional equivalent
- Current or previous P&L (or budget) responsibility of $50+ million
- Acquisition and integration expertise is also beneficial
Personality traits most suited to working with Financial Sponsors:
- Goal-oriented and self-motivated
- Highly collaborative and open to feedback
- Strategic perspective combined with a "get it done" attitude
- Extraordinary team building and leadership skills
- Strong sense of urgency
What Financial Sponsors Do
Financial Sponsors invest capital in operating companies (called portfolio companies) with the goal of generating financial returns over a defined period of time.
The term Financial Sponsors includes private equity firms, growth investors, venture capital firms, family offices and other organizations that invest in privately held businesses.
Most Financial Sponsors invest on a control basis. This means they own the majority of the common equity in their portfolio companies and exercise strategic guidance through their control of the board of directors. Venture capital firms and some growth investors invest on a non-control basis.
Capital invested by Financial Sponsors comes from a range of institutions (such as pension funds and insurance companies) and high-net-worth individuals. Most Financial Sponsors raise and deploy capital through a series of investment funds, with investors being limited partners in the funds.
Financial Sponsors Typically:
- Target different-sized companies based on the size of their investment fund, often putting ~10% of a fund into 10+ portfolio companies.
- Seek to invest in portfolio companies that operate in industry sectors where they have investment experience and/or expertise, either personally or by partnering with relevant operating executives.
- Target annual investment returns to their investors of 15% to 25%, though this target varies based on the nature of each deal.
- Hold investments for three to five years, during which time they seek to significantly improve the operating and financial performance of the portfolio company.
Working with Financial Sponsors
Executives can help Financial Sponsors throughout the entire life cycle of an investment:
Sourcing investment opportunities
Conducting due diligence on potential investments, which can be market-related or company-specific
Overseeing portfolio companies by providing board-level oversight or active management
Planning for the exit
Roles for Executives
Executives can fill any of these roles, either at the portfolio company level or at the Financial Sponsor:
Consultant / Coach
Membership for Executives
- To join CEO Discovery, you must complete an application.
- Completing an application does not guarantee acceptance to the platform.
- Once approved, Executives can create and maintain their profile for free. They can also view profiles of Financial Sponsor Firms and respond to inbound communications for free.
- Your profile information will be kept confidential and you will have complete control over who sees your profile.
Free Membership (once approved)
Create and maintain your own Executive Profile
- Provide information on your background in a format searchable by Financial Sponsors
- Upload your resume
- Include web-links (to your LinkedIn page, articles featuring you, presentations given by you, etc.)
Search and review profiles of Financial Sponsor Firms
- Find Financial Sponsor Firms that invest in your industry sector(s)
- Review their fund size, investment criteria and portfolio holdings
- Follow Financial Sponsor Firms, so you can track their progress
Engage in unlimited interactions with Financial Sponsor Professionals after being contacted by them first
Frequently Asked Questions From CEOs
Yes! The CEO Discovery platform enables you to build relationships with Financial Sponsors that can benefit you throughout your career. Sponsors like to develop relationships over time, before they decide to hire someone. Using the platform, you can identify the best Financial Sponsors for you to get to know now. In some ways, starting a dialogue while you have a job can be easier.
When you create a profile, you can control who sees your information.
Select as many industry sub-sectors as you can credibly speak to. Generally, do not select sectors where you have less than one year of experience or where your experience is dated (e.g., over 10 years old). Focus on sectors that you believe are good investment opportunities.
Financial Sponsors often hire Executives to grow companies that are smaller than their prior P&L. For example, a Sponsor might want to hire you to run a $20 million EBITDA business and grow it to $50 million before exiting. Buying a company with $20 million of EBITDA may require about $100 million of equity (i.e., ~5x EBITDA). As a result, Sponsors with fund sizes that are 5x to 20x this equity amount, or $500 million to $2 billion, are likely to be most relevant.
Make sure you are contacting Financial Sponsors with a stated interest in your industry sector(s). Also try contacting Sponsors with a smaller, potentially more relevant fund size. Lastly, keep in mind that Sponsors are busy. You may want to wait a bit and then reach out again.
For businesses of scale (i.e., $50+ million of revenue and/or $50+ million of enterprise value), we can provide advice specific to your situation, including whether you should consider engaging an investment banker or should approach selected Financial Sponsors directly. We may be able to make direct introductions to the most relevant Financial Sponsors or investment bankers. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and provide an overview of the potential transaction, including whether you are contemplating a sale of the business or seeking a non-control equity investment.
For investment ideas of scale (i.e., requiring $20+ million of equity), we can provide advice specific to your situation. We can also make direct introductions to the most relevant Financial Sponsors. Please contact us at email@example.com and provide an overview of the potential investment opportunity and your particular angle or insight (e.g., knowledge of the opportunity, relationship with the seller, knowledge of the business, ability to manage the business, etc.).
About CEO Discovery
Kelly Harris is Founder and CEO of CEO Discovery LLC. Kelly is a serial entrepreneur with deep experience in executive search in Asia and North America. Most recently, she has advised CEOs regarding opportunities in private equity. She has also built relationships with Financial Sponsors with fund sizes ranging from $200 million to $10+ billion. Kelly launched the online CEO Discovery platform in 2021 to enable these two groups to connect more directly.